Guardant enters the record books

It might pale in comparison with the vast amounts raised by Grail and Verily this year, but Guardant Health’s $360m financing, announced yesterday, is still the third-largest round in medtech history.

The liquid biopsy group has raised more than half a billion dollars since inception less than five years ago. And technology is key: the current record-holder, Grail, raised a stupefying $900m VC round in March to develop a similar blood-based cancer test.

Investors are key too. One of those participating in Guardant’s round is the Singapore government’s investment fund Temasek, which was responsible for the second-largest fundraising of 2017, placing $800m into Google’s sister company Verily Life Sciences in January.

Top 5 medtech VC rounds ever
Date Round Company Investment   ($m) Medtech focus
March 1, 2017 Series B Grail 900.0 In vitro diagnostics
January 26, 2017 Seed Capital Verily Life Sciences 800.0 Diabetic care; ophthalmics; patient monitoring
May 11, 2017 Undisclosed Guardant Health 360.0 In vitro diagnostics
December 30, 2010 Undisclosed Liberty Dialysis Holdings 348.4 Nephrology
April 20, 2010 Undisclosed Liberty Dialysis Holdings 315.0 Nephrology
Source: EvaluateMedTech.

The company intends to put the cash towards an initiative under which it will sequence the tumour DNA of more than a million cancer patients within the next five years. This will, it says, speed the development of blood-based tests for early cancer detection.

These will differ from its current test, Guardant360, which is less a strict diagnostic than a theranostic, matching patients to targeted therapies and tracking the response of cancer to different treatment regimens (Guardant Health takes $50m to make biopsy a thing of the past, February 16, 2015).

Grail is taking a similar tack, but via a clinical trial rather than commercial use. Last month the Illumina spin-out began a study called Strive in 120,000 breast cancer patients that would validate its liquid biopsy as a diagnostic for breast disease, but also to gather data that might allow it to develop a test that could detect multiple cancers at early stages.

Guardant has also arranged a partnership with one of the other investors in its latest round. It will form a joint venture with the Japanese telecoms group Softbank to sell Guardant360 in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

This will add new customers to the 40,000 or so who have already used Guardant360, which has been on sale in the US as a lab-developed test since June 2014 and in Europe since the end of 2015. This will also yield data that will allow Guardant to refine its existing test and develop new ones.

Data

VCs are happy to throw money at liquid biopsy developers, it seems, but at some point they are going to want something in return. Certainly DNA sequencing-based blood tests that really can replace tissue biopsy as the gold standard for cancer diagnosis would be phenomenally lucrative – even more so if such tests could be used to screen patients.

But achieving this in a cost-effective way is a long way off, not least because of the computing power it would take to analyse the reams of data generated by widespread use of these tests. This is a problem that Guardant – and Grail – will have to solve to repay the extraordinary generosity of their deep-pocketed backers.

Guardant Health's VC funding
Date Round Investment  ($m) Investors
May 11, 2017 Undisclosed 360.0 SoftBank Group; T. Rowe Price Associates; Temasek; Sequoia Capital; Khosla Ventures; Lightspeed Venture Partners; OrbiMed; 8VC
January 7, 2016 Series D 100.0 Formation 8; Heritage Group; Khosla Ventures; Lightspeed Venture Partners; OrbiMed Advisors; Pejman Mar Ventures; Sequoia Capital
February 3, 2015 Series C 50.0 Lightspeed Venture Partners; Khosla Ventures; Sequoia Capital
April 22, 2014 Series B 30.0 Khosla Ventures; Sequoia Capital; Pejman Mar Ventures
February 11, 2014 Series A 10.0 Sequoia Capital
Total 550.0

To contact the writer of this story email Elizabeth Cairns in London at elizabethc@epvantage.com or follow @LizVantage on Twitter

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